Thursday, February 27, 2014

Relationships from God's Perspective

by Margaret Lepke


A horrible realization drifts into my awareness. I start to comprehend its significance. I recognize its awesomeness – and I mean this in the true sense of awe! I grasp the fact that every time my actions fall short of God’s perfect standard (in other words, whenever I sin), I am doing something that Jesus suffered and died for…

My thoughts then trail to the fact that many of those actions are performed within the context of relationships … relationships involve all spheres of life ... relationships among Christians are not always what they ought to be… how easily are we influenced by worldly concepts … one thought leads to another…

Relationship advice abounds. Many feel free to give it, many indeed need it, but God has the last (and best) say. That inspires me to take a systematic journey through the New Testament to see what godly relationships look like.

But what does all this have to do with writing? Well, let’s see. Following God’s advice will most likely improve our relationships; make us feel better within ourselves and draw us closer to your Heavenly Father. This, in turn, will influence our daily experiences, guide our thoughts, and … there it is … inspire our writing. You could even use this checklist to shape some of your literary characters and their relationships.

Not only will our rewards be precious if we heed God's advice, but the way we make others feel in the process will be priceless…

Love one another (John 13:35 - this command appears 16 times)
Be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10)
Honour others above yourselves (Romans 12:10)
Live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)
Build up one another (Romans 14:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Be likeminded towards one another (Romans 15:5)
Accept one another (Romans 15:7)
Admonish one another (Romans 15:14; Colossians 3:16)
Care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25)
Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
Bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2)
Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:2, 32; Colossians 3:13)
Be patient with one another (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13)
Be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32)
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19)
Submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21, 1 Peter 5:5)
Consider others better than yourselves (Philippians 2:3)
Look to the interests of others, not just your own (Philippians 2:4)
Bear with one another (Colossians 3:13)
Teach one another (Colossians 3:16)
Comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18)
Encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13)
Stir up one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24)
Show hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)
Employ the gifts that God has given us for the benefit of one another (1 Peter 4:10)
Clothe yourselves with humility towards one another (1 Peter 5:5)
Pray for one another (James 5:16)
Confess our faults to one another (James 5:16)

 

And now for the final wrap-up: 

“This is God’s commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” (1 John 3:23)

“Therefore, whatever you do, do all to the glory of God!” (1 Corinthians 10:31)



Margaret Lepke is a Christian educator, counsellor, naturopath and writer. She loves encouraging women to grow in Christ and presents many helpful talks and workshops. Enjoy the resources on her website.  http://drlepke.com.au

Monday, February 24, 2014

Beyond our imagination and aspirations


I usually spend most of January tying up loose ends from the year that’s past, and preparing for the year ahead. I try to include a few days away from the domestic daily routine, the phone and other intrusions, so that I feel rested when February starts. By then I have my diary for the new year sorted.  I’ve scheduled and planned for various events, social and family functions, speaking engagements, projects, trips away. I have some personal goals for the year, including what I want to accomplish in my writing and what areas of spiritual growth I need to focus on.

(I’m sure I’m not the only one who likes order, who plans, sets new year resolutions and goals, so I’m assuming at least some of you are identifying with this.)

However, with the arrival of February this year, and much of the above set out as usual, I still found myself still carrying a heaviness from some losses and struggles from last year. I’ve been wondering if I’m really ready for 2014, despite my planning. As I’ve reflected on this, God has graciously reminded me of what I most need.

A few years ago I was greatly impacted by the wonder of new life after darkness and devastation. It was during January of 2001 that I visited our church conference and camping site after fires had swept through and ravaged the buildings and grounds. I was so struck by the sight of new growth that I took a roll of film – bright green shoots of grasses and shrubs, pink leaves from the blackness of charred trees – all wondrous signs of what God brings from death and destruction, yes, even in plant life. His wonderful creation. His marvellous power. There for me to be overwhelmed by. I remember that year I began February with a sense of awe and expectation, assured that whatever had been or was to come, God would be doing something beautiful. 
This January I’ve been reading daily messages from one of my favourite writers, Richard Rohr, and just this last week his focus has been on God’s divine plan for our lives; the ongoing transformation He wants to bring about in us by His Spirit, until we are formed into His likeness, until we reach perfect oneness with Him. This won’t be complete, of course, until we are in heaven with Him, but it is the divine reality which is going on in our lives even now.

The following is taken from one of Richard Rohr’s daily readings. It’s a prayer offered by one of his colleagues at the Living School for Action and Contemplation:
May each of us be so fortunate as to be overtaken by God in the midst of little things. May we each be so blessed as to be finished off by God, swooping down from above or welling up from beneath, to extinguish the illusion of separateness that perpetuates our fears. May we, in having our illusory, separate self slain by God, be born into a new and true awareness of who we really are: one with God forever. May we continue on in this true awareness, seeing in each and every little thing we see the fullness of God’s presence in our lives. May we also be someone in whose presence others are better able to recognize God’s presence in their lives, so that they, too, might know the freedom of the children of God.
These reminders have swept through my heaviness and lifted me to a place where I can surrender all my plans, goals, aspirations and struggles to Him who knows it all and has plans for my year which are above and beyond anything I can conceive or even imagine, and who also has a much bigger plan for His whole creation, which is so much greater than anything that happens in our daily lives on earth. This is a much better perspective for me to go into 2014 with.  I hope any of you who are finding it difficult to get into the work of this year, will find this encouraging.
Carol Preston

Carol writes historical novels based on her family ancestry in Australia and include the Turning the Tide series; Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets and Truly Free. Her earlier novel Suzannah’s Gold has been re-released by EBP and will soon be followed by the re-release of its sequel Rebecca’s Dream. You can see more about Carol and her novels on her website or her FB author page.
Her novels can be found at EBP  www.evenbeforepublishing.com


 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Month of Poetry

by Jeanette O'Hagan

In January, encouraged by Nola and Michelle, I signed up for MoP - Month of Poetry - with some trepidation and a smidgen of excitement. After all, I had dabbled in poetry before but the task was to write one poem a day for the whole month of January - 31 poems.  Still they didn't have to be big and they didn't have to be brilliant and if I got stuck maybe I could bring out one of my poems in progress from the bottom drawer. So I took a risk...

And I'm so glad I did. For one thing, the discipline or expectation that I would write one poem a day meant that I did. I surprised myself. How often did I sit down to a blank page with nary an idea - only to find the words flowing? A lot. By the end of January I had written  ... not 31 poems
but ... 33 :)

Not only did I write poems during this time (and actually a few since then) but people read and commented on them. It was great to get encouraging but honest feedback. And I enjoyed providing feedback to my fellow MoP-anauts.

But just as good was reading everyone else's poems. I've never read so much poetry at one time - and I enjoyed all of it. There was such a wide variety and levels of experience. Some, like me, felt like beginners. Others were obviously much more practiced and confident. There was a huge variety of styles as well - from sonnets, haiku, blank verse, free form, to shaped poems, acrostics & verse novels. I learned new forms - the difference between haiku and senryu, found poems, erasure poems, climbing rhymes, villanelles and trimerics. Best of all, I had fun.

Poems were  posted on a closed website with stated copyright protection for the writer.

It was an exhilarating month and I'm keen to sign up for MoP 2015. In the meantime, here was my effort on Day 29

A long time ago

Once upon a time
when I was five
in the middle of the year
we moved to a new house
in School Road
just a short dreamy amble away
from my new school.

And I was thrilled
to escape
that dragon teacher
I forget her name
her hard face
who breathed fiery
tough-hearted spite
“No you can’t go,
You should have gone
in the break”

But now exchanged
for motherly Mrs Fisher
who enveloped us
in her matronly smiles
and rewarded completed sums
with a sweet rainbow
selection
of tempting, tantalising
jelly beans.

Yet new perils awaited
lurking in the expanses of
bitumen and dust
of the school grounds.
No, not the harsh outback sun
beating down on hatted heads
Or the twirling,
wheeling,
whistling
fork-tailed kites
swooping for lunch scraps
within inches of startled faces
Or even the yellow, thick, three foot ruler
in grade three
whose watchful eye
was more threat than bite.

It was
the
silence
the closed games
and head shakes
acid that etched
corroding self-confidence
as yet again
I trembled “Can I play?”
Averted heads
closed looks
leaving me to wander
and circle
overtures of friendship
rejected
adrift in solitary pursuits
until at the end of the day
I could return to riotous play
and daring adventures with
my brothers

#

But then at School I discovered
26 new friends
to whose game of musical chairs
I was not excluded
as they cheerfully spelled out
“Open Sesame”
and through the wardrobe
I stumbled
encountering a friendly untamed lion
from over the seas
giants, colourful strange lands
princesses and dashing princes
Lilliputians and giant fishes
Tom and Huckle’s adventures
time-fated Mohicans
just as outcaste and lonely
red headed Anne with an “e”
noble horses of great beauty
and loyal lassies
treasures discovered
in the snow of winter
never mind it was
a blistering 40 C
And my heart swelled
and my imagination expanded
and my world was populated
and I was content just to read.

Jeanette O’Hagan © 29 January 2014



Jeanette has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology.  She is currently caring for her  children, enjoying post-graduate studies in writing at Swinburne University and writing her Akrad fantasy fiction series.  She is actively involved in a caring Christian community.


You can find her on her Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/JeanetteOHaganAuthorAndSpeaker or webiste  JennysThread.com .


Some other posts by Jeanette:
http://christianwritersdownunder.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/old-tapes.html ;
http://christianwritersdownunder.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/the-world-of-books.html
http://christianwritersdownunder.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/a-thorny-gift.html

Monday, February 17, 2014

Writing for the long haul.

Penny Reeve is the author of more than 15 children's books.
She returns to CWD today to guest blog about writing for the long haul. 
  
As a published children’s author I’m often asked the question: "When did you start writing?" Now, most authors I know understand there are several answers to that question. There’s the academic answer: "I started writing in preschool." There’s the artistic answer: "I've always dreamed of becoming a writer and wrote mountains of soppy (or morbid) poetry when I was a teenager." And there’s the answer most people are really after, the details about when you started writing for publication. My answer is 14 years, and to this I tend to get quiet raised eyebrows in response. I haven’t yet figured out why they go quiet at this stage but one of my suspicions is that the 14 years of hard work with little to show for it (financially or fame wise) causes their illusions of author grandeur to be slowly dismantled. Typically, at this stage, the conversation turns by their direction to other topics. (Like ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ or ‘Are you still writing?’ or 'How old are your kids?')

The interesting thing is that if they were honest enough to admit their thoughts (their doubts about the legitimacy of such a passion etc) I would probably share them. I certainly didn't imagine myself 14 years after the acceptance of my first manuscript with the attitude that I now have. Somewhere between that first publication and my last the ecstatic excitement of the unattainable goal was replaced with a more solid work ethic. And I don’t use the word Work lightly. I’m sure many authors know what I mean: that dogged perseverance, the dodging of self doubt and of hopelessness for well written, well placed prose. Yes the thrill remains, and leaps of faith are often tested and blessed, but when I am no longer ‘waiting for the right inspiration’ or ‘working at my own pace’ the writing journey feels remarkably different to what I imagined it to be as an emerging author.   

There are, I think, a number of habits that become crucial to writing as a long term commitment. (And, I’d love it if other authors could share their tips for perseverance. Please comment below.) Here are some of mine:
1)    Write. It seems a ‘no-brainer’ but writing for the long haul means giving up the illusion of writing when you feel like it. You need to train your creative mind to deliver the goods (even if they’ll require a significant rewrite) whenever you sit down to work.

2)    Watch over-commitment. An over-committed writer cannot find time or mental energy to write. This balance will be different for each writer’s personality, but with the necessary pull towards marketing and other ‘authory’ demands we need to learn to guard and prioritise time so the writing actually gets done.

3)    Don’t procrastinate. Yep, I’m writing this one for myself. I am very good at procrastination! But I can’t afford to be (and if I’m honest, neither can my family!)

4)    Set challenging but realistic goals. Look ahead at what projects you want published next and make a plan towards that goal. Push yourself creatively but also be realistic about what can be achieved. (For example: the year my youngest arrived I did very little writing, this year he’ll be in preschool three days a week so it’s a different story, literally.)

5)    Refresh, recharge and remain stimulated. Don’t let your inspirations dry up. Meet with other authors, meet with other non-authors. Go places, read widely, feel deeply. Don’t let yourself get stuck in a rut but allow enough creative input so your creative output can remain fresh and relevant.

6)    This may be a bit controversial, but I believe we need to give ourselves the permission to stop writing. For me this is both a challenge and a blessing. I love writing and often describe it as ‘my heart thing’, but if I ever love my writing more than my family, more than my faith family, more than my Heavenly Father, then the priorities will be wrong. There may be a time when I will need to slow down, or perhaps stop aiming for publication (be it for a particular story or for a season). I need to hold lightly enough to my writing that I can stop if I need to. I am an author – but that is not all I am.

To find out more about Penny Reeve and her books visit www.pennyreeve.com  or 'like' her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pennyreevethepennydrops

Thursday, February 13, 2014

In Secret by Anusha Atukorala



Some months ago, I needed to have an x- ray of my left foot. I parked my car at the shopping centre and trundled off for my x-ray. Once it was over, I returned to my car and got in surreptitiously. Why surreptitiously you ask? Shhhh. Not so loud. I climbed into the backseat and shut the door. I took out a tub of “Exit pain” cream. I pulled off my shoes. I pulled off my socks. I put on a pair of disposable gloves. I applied the cream on both my feet – top and bottom… as quickly as I could. Ah! That was better. Much better! I put on my socks and shoes. I took off my gloves. I gathered my shopping bags. I was ready. Off I went to the shops.

The problem was that I had very painful feet. I’d found a temporary solution in a tub of an all-natural-pain-relieving cream. If I applied it before going out for a walk I could last the ½ hour. If I applied it before going shopping, I lasted a whole hour. How I thanked God for it. It got me through.

But if a passer by had seen me applying the cream while I was inside my car - it may have looked a trifle odd. “What’s that strange lady doing in her car?” they might wonder. Going for that x-ray before my shopping changed matters. I had to do it in my car, not at home as I usually did. In secret. Not that applying the cream was a bad thing of course. It was a good thing. It helped me walk didn’t it? But it’s not a fact I would have announced to the world. It was something I had to do in secret. Just so I’d get my shopping done.


We writers too often do things in secret don’t we? Not bad things. Good things. Like eavesdropping on other people’s conversations (so we can get ideas for dialogue). Or making wild surmises about other people’s lives. Or brooding over a character’s love life while in company. Or spending hours on our own, hunched over our computers. Or day dreaming when we should be paying attention to our spouses. Yes, we are a strange bunch. No doubt about that. But our secretive behaviour is actually good for our profession, don’t you think?

Jesus asked us to do things in secret too. Here are a few examples... just off the top of my head.
1. Pray.
2. Give.
3. Forgive.
4. Live a life of integrity.
5. Do good.


So what are the things that as a Christian Writer I could and should do often “in secret” and to an audience of One? Here’s my little list.
1. Cultivate my relationship with God as my number 1 passion.
2. Listen to God (about all of life including my writing life).
3. Pray for others.
4. Give.
5. Forgive.
6. Make every day count.
7. Do good.
8. Work hard.
9. Read.
10. Read.
11. Read.
12. Read.
13. Read.
14. Learn.
15. Study.
16. Observe people.
17. Observe the word around me.
18. Seek God’s ways and wisdom.
19. Do research.
20. Learn my craft.
21. Write.
22. Write.
23. Write.
24. Write.
25. Write
Of course it’s not a comprehensive list. What would YOU add to it?
In secret or otherwise? Go on….I’m listening.
And yes, you can whisper if you like…..

PS After reading Ian's eye-opening post on marketing, I can see that something is definitely missing from my list! Thanks Ian.



Anusha Atukorala is writer who's in love with Jesus, life, people and the English Language! She loves connecting with people, especially other Christian writers. Her passion is to become all God has created her to be; and to share His amazing love through both her life and her writing. Do drop by at her website to say G’day. You will be most welcome! Dancing in the Rain